The legal controversy in the Miller case may now be distilled in the following way. The government argues that it has a general power to withdraw from treaties, which it certainly does. The claimants argue that the executive does not have a power to frustrate a statute, which it certainly does not. The government argues that Parliament legislated in 1972 (and afterwards) against the background of a settled practice that the power of the Crown to withdraw from treaties is untrammelled. The claimants respond that there was never such a treaty as the set of EU Treaties and hence the previous practice is irrelevant.
This paper suggests that the correct interpretation of s. 1 of the European Communities Act 1972 [‘ECA’] strengthens the government position in Miller. The paper does so by explaining the legislative choice expressed in s. 1 ECA with the aid of the clear interpretative statements made in Parliament by government representatives during the legislative work on what became the ECA.